“We Become What We are Called”

Today I finished a fabulous book by Alice Walker, who is probably best known for her literary work “The Color Purple.”  Learned a lot from and about Ms. Walker. There are some books that become companions when you read them and this was one of them.  We spent about three intimate days together. She did all the talking. I listened intently. She talked a lot about the spiritual nature of things.  Of the connection between humans and animals that once was there but has either been lost or condemned. She writes approvingly about paganism-as if that belief system is how things should be. Taboo.  Very Taboo. In Christianity, pagan is a bad word. I almost felt as if I was reading a dirty magazine or evil comics or something when I first began reading the chapter. But really, her explanation of what paganism is all about sounded almost natural to me, sounded almost nice and wholesome. The only thing is I do believe that it is indeed worshiping the creation instead of the creator which is a problem. I believe she even says this herself but seems fine with it.  I wish I had some quotes from the book but it was a library book and I gave it back.

I remember another thing from the book though. In a chapter titled ” We become What we are Called”,   Ms. Walker writes about using the phrase ‘you guys’. It’s funny because I know a woman who’s against using the phrase as well. When we used to travel with her while doing this peer educating stint, she’d refer to us as ‘young women’.  My friends and I were newly young women at the time but I always thought it was so extra and unnecessary to try and cram this extra syllable in a space that was obviously only meant for one. “Hey young women” , “what do you young women want to eat for lunch today?” , “What are you young women up to?”,  “How are you doing young women?”

I used to scoff at her over the top activism and her feminist without a cause-ism.  But now that I’m older and because Ms. Walker gave an explanation for her dissatisfaction with the term, I feel that maybe this woman had a cause after all. Ms. Walker explains that herself and her colleague, both grown women who had just produced a film, as  ‘guys’ was in a sense a failure  to acknowledge them  for all the being they were as women, as filmmakers and as tellers of sensitive stories.  The term ‘guys’ was  belittling in the most contemporary and casual of ways.  I’m sure people snickered at her as she corrected them as I did at the woman who called us “young women” all those years ago.   But now I understand the beauty and respect and power in people seeing each other as who they are, as God made them that is, and acknowledging them with respectful terms like brother, sister, maam, sir, young man, young woman,  etc.

3 thoughts on ““We Become What We are Called”

  1. adrianna says:

    Beautifully written. I will say that before christianity we as africans had our own traditions and rituals. Our connection to nature was one that resembles what Ms. Walker speaks of and it gave us a power and resource that surpassed Europeans understanding. So naturally they labeled it something else. But thankfully and slowly we are becoming aware. Thanks to you. Beautifully written my sista

  2. jonathan says:

    You seem to be making two points here (defense of paganism and “name calling”) so I’ll refer to the former.

    If I find time, I may even read this book (what’s the title btw?). However, from how you describe her definition, it seems she is talking more about animism rather than paganism. Paganism is really very broad and can involve worshiping many gods, and isn’t necessarily more nature oriented. The Vikings for example were VERY pagan, that didn’t stop them from conquest, rape, pillage etc… Animism is more about belief in spirits and powers abiding in all creatures. However, I doubt it can be proven that these societies have been any more peacefull. Even if they are regarding as more enviromentally “friendly”, it is largly due to existing outside of the industrial revolution – which at this point in history is cleary beyond a European phenomenon (in reference to the comment above).

    That being said, I remember studying Shintoism in high school and found it exposed much was lacking from my cultural context – namely, a hightened awareness and respect for the value of nature. However, I think it is important to make the distinction between seeing nature and creation as sacred versus having their own unique personal spiritual force. Viewing other forms of life as having their own spiritual powers may have some positive effects, but it also usually involves fear of these spirits, and the need for appeasement. Also, it often involves abuse as people try to manipulate these spirits for their own advancement (ex. Shintoism is also closely tied into warefare; also “hexing” is a common attribute within animism).

    The main problem though, as you mentioned, is that the distinction between worshiping creation or the Creator is quite blurred (at best). It’s akin to thinking a ray of light powers the sun, as opposed to the opposite.

    Perhaps many Western Christians have misused the notion of “having dominion over every creature”. Bear in mind there were many other non-spiritual factors cultural factors involved in Industrialization, colonialism etc… However, if the Creator indeed called his creation “good” and is a reflection of His glory, our response ought not to be debase and undervalue creation. Rather, one should see creation as sacred (inspiring awe or reverence), and yes, something that inspires worship. And if humanity is a steward of this creation, ideally we shouldn’t feel the need to worship it in order to care for and revere it.

    But just my (long) take on it.

  3. abenatuffour says:

    I believe the name of the book is “Everything We Love Can be Saved.”
    both of your comments make me want to educate myself further on this topic. For instance, the distinctions between paganism and animism. I do believe Western Christians have misused the notion of dominion but non-western ones have as well in other ways. Adrianna, I’m curious about your knowledge and experiences of how we (Africans) are becoming aware of what we believed or better yet, what we knew as true. Books, videos, names?
    thanks for your comments. This is quite educational for me. Peace.

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